If you work at an office, your commute time should take high priority during your house hunt. Sure, it might be tempting to ignore a long commute if it gets you into an otherwise perfect home, but trust us—you won’t be enjoying it much if you spend countless hours every week stuck in traffic!
This is why with home buyers and families in particular, “I would say the first priority is schools, and the second priority is commute to work,” says Kimberly Sands, a real estate broker in Carolina Beach, NC.
Of course, “most [home buyers] want it all: an easy commute, a great school district, low taxes, a good lifestyle,” says Judy Weiniger, broker associate and CEO at Weiniger Group in Warren, NJ. However, getting everything you want might not be realistic, so here’s how to factor your commute into your home-buying process so you can decide where you want to live.
If you work in a big city, looking in the suburbs is one way to find a more affordable home. For example, in Rockville, MD—a suburb of the nation’s capital—the median price per square foot is $277, compared with a hefty $444 in Washington, DC. (You can find out the price per square foot in any neighborhood at realtor.com/local.)
Consequently, even if you’re looking for a short commute to work, your options of where you can afford to buy a house may be limited, and affect where you can realistically shop for homes.
“My recommendation is keep driving until you can afford it,” says Irvine, CA, real estate agent Benny Kang. “That’s how you strike a balance between lower housing prices and a shorter commute time.”
The average commute time to work in the U.S. is 25.4 minutes, according to the Census Bureau, but commute times can vary widely based on location. Workers in the New York City metro area have the longest average commute time of 34.9 minutes, followed by Los Angeles, Boston, and Atlanta—and 10.8 million Americans travel more than an hour each way to work.
As the minutes add up, so do your travel costs—especially gas and car maintenance, says Kang. According to research by Lifehacker, each mile you live from work adds $795 per year to your commuting costs. So, for example, if you were to cut your commute from one hour to 30 minutes, you’d save a whopping $23,850 annually—which could mean you’re able to spend a bit more on buying a home.
Many workers have the luxury of setting their own hours. If you’re one of them, you may be able to adjust your work schedule so that you avoid rush hour traffic, says Sands.
In addition, a growing number of employers are letting employees telecommute. According to a 2016 Society for Human Resource Management survey, 60% of companies now offer telecommuting opportunities—a threefold increase from 1996. If you have that kind of flexibility, you may be more inclined to buy a house that requires a longer commute.
There are also considerations about what matters most to you in addition to price. Outdoor parks, nightlife, access to restaurants and shopping, and population density may be important factors when picking a place you want to live.
Where you are in your life also comes into play. If you’re raising young children and want to maximize your time with them, you likely want a short commute. Or if you decide your heart is set on a particular community or neighborhood, you may be willing to drive farther to work.
Although you can’t pin a dollar amount to your stress levels, how long you’re willing to commute to work also depends on how frustrated you get sitting behind the wheel. Research supports the idea that a long commute can have downsides that hit far deeper than time on the road.
A recent study from Canada’s University of Waterloo found that people with long commutes experience higher levels of stress and lower levels of life satisfaction than people with shorter commutes. Meanwhile, research from Washington University suggests that the longer your daily commute is, the more likely you are to have high blood pressure, an oversized waistline, and other health problems that can increase your risk for chronic diseases.
“My mentality is ‘forget the wear and tear on my car, I’m going to care about the wear and tear on myself,’” says Kang. However, some people don’t mind having a long commute to work, since it gives them time to listen to new music or catch up on their favorite podcasts.
To help you weigh the pros and cons, sit down with a real estate agent and identify what matters to you most so you can make an informed trade-off and find the best home—and commute—for you.
The post How Your Commute Time Should Affect Where You Buy a Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.
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